Text: Mark 10:2-16
Date: Pentecost XIX + Proper 22 + 10/4/15
When asked to explain how the real body and blood of the Lord Jesus become present in the bread and wine of the sacrament of the altar, the Roman Catholic Church relies on the philosophical reasoning called Transubstantiation. That is, since one thing cannot be two different things at once, the bread and wine on the altar cease to exist except for what’s called their “accidents,” and the elements are transformed into the body and blood of Christ. Maybe it is because of some lingering doubt that you hear it popularly referred to as “the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ.”
When asked to explain how the real body and blood of the Lord Jesus become present in the bread and wine of the sacrament of the altar, the Reformed or Calvinists object. Agreeing with the Roman Catholic idea that one thing cannot be two different things at once, since it is obvious the elements remain simple bread and wine they deny that the body and blood of Christ are truly present at all, but only spiritually.
It is more than interesting that, when asked to explain how the real body and blood of the Lord Jesus become present in the bread and wine of the sacrament of the altar, the Lutherans refuse to employ human philosophy or skepticism that one thing cannot be two different things at once, but always and only return to the Lord’s words when He says, “This is my body,” “This is my blood.” The word of God stands against all doubt or unbelief. While we refuse to even be pinned down to “a moment when” the elements become the body and blood of Christ, we let all the weight be born solely by the word of Christ. Because of the word of Jesus we believe what He says, that “this,” namely this bread set apart for this use, “this is,” not represents or merely symbolizes, “this is my body.” How does the catechism teach it in a simple way? The Sacrament of the Altar “is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.” All the weight is on the plain meaning of the words of Christ as they have been reliably transmitted to us through the Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke and the Apostle Paul. On the authority of the Word of scripture alone we do not explain but testify as to what this sacrament is and conveys.
By faith in the word and promise of God alone Abraham, our father of faith, believed
that He would have a son, believed that though he be commanded to sacrifice him, God could and would raise him from the dead, believed that through him, through Isaac and his descendants, a great nation of God’s own creation would come to pass. By faith in the word and promise of God alone the prophet Isaiah believed that the promised Savior would be born of a virgin, of the house and lineage of David, to be the great suffering servant bringing the forgiveness of sins and resurrection to eternal life to the whole world. It all has to do with the perspicuity, the clarity and plain understanding and power of God’s Word—the power through which (or maybe we should say through Whom) the world and the universe were created in the first place. It all has to do with the word, the word, the word of God. “And God said…and there was.”
This morning we heard of God’s creation of “a helper fit” for man, the creation of woman and therefore the creation of marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
We heard of the unbelieving Pharisees attempting to trip up Jesus by asking whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife, and they noted the provision of Moses who allowed the writing of a certificate of divorce and the nullification of marriage. His answer? Notice Jesus did not try to justify divorce or reinterpret the essence of marriage to be anything less than the permanent status in this world of one man and one woman created by God. Notice Jesus simply referred to the scripture, saying, “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female,’” and on the basis of this word alone marriage is the life-long commitment of one man and one woman to become “one flesh.”
I like Professor Peter Scaer’s observation. He notes that every human being has a number of complete bodily systems. There is the circulatory system by which blood transmits oxygen to every cell of the body. There is the respiratory system behind that. There is the skeletal system by which we can move about, work and play and manipulate our surroundings. There is also the nervous system by which pain warns us against serious injury. The only incomplete bodily system in every human being is the reproductive system. It doesn’t work by itself. It doesn’t become complete until the two, one man and one woman, become, literally, “one flesh,” one complete system. Only then can they reproduce and have children. And that’s the point and goal of marriage. Nothing else.
Now last Tuesday, on St. Michael and All Angels Day, we were reminded of the “war in heaven” reported to us in Revelation 12. Today we are witnessing an increasing war on earth. All outward wars as between nations or even so-called civil wars begin from a conflict of pride. Today we are not only being asked but actually commanded to change our understanding of marriage. As with everything else, let us not try to reinterpret nor deny God’s Word as being the one, decisive, fundamental definition of marriage. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
From the headline of the Breitbart news network article, “As Pope Francis flew back to Rome, President Obama issued a stern warning to Christians, warning them their attempts to assert their religious liberty to oppose gay rights would fail.” Words of an open challenge as to combat are increasing. The French Revolution in part was determined to stamp out the Church and all religion. The “Reign of Terror” was ended only through the bloody reign of Napoleon. Our own American Civil War, while violent and bloody, had one thing the French did not have, the freedom of religion codified in the Constitution. Because of the influence of the Christian life in Church and society, the bold assertion of Christian morality and ideas, based on the Word of God we have the hope of the continued freedoms expressed in our founding documents.
Only by relying on God’s Word, the inspired, inerrant scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the Bible, can we gain the confidence in those words of our Lord, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mat 10:28). Such “fear” is the beginning of wisdom and the strength of God-given faith.